Training for the zombie apocalypse: fun, games – and serious skills

Practicing "zom-jistu" at a zombie camp. All photos posted on Zombie Survival Camp's Facebook page.


Would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Instead of waiting to find out, some people are getting ready by going to zombie preparedness camps, where they learn all the skills they might need to outlive the undead.

Over the past few years, as the zombie genre’s popularity has soared, survival camps have popped up in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. They teach everything from shooting arrows to hotwiring a car (ever notice how, in zombie movies, the protagonists have a whole lot of trouble getting their cars to start?). Our Observer recently attended a one-day class at the oldest of the camps, the Zombie Survival Course in New Jersey.
Contributors

"We learned to shoot crossbows and suture pigs' feet"

Lucas Clarke is an engineer who lives in Allen, just outside Dallas, Texas.

My wife bought me a one-day survival course for Christmas, after seeing that the camp was located near where my little brother lives. I’ve been a zombie fan for nearly a decade, since the first World War Z books were published. From there I got into other zombie series and movies.

They made me think about what I would do in a situation like that. For me, it’s really a metaphor for different types of cataclysmic events, like when hurricane Sandy hit northeast. I used to live in Florida, where there were often hurricane warnings. I would see people clear out the grocery store, and though we were never in real danger, it concerned me to see how people panic in threatening situations. Being cognizant that you can’t always count on others, I believe you should prepare yourself as much as possible for such situations.

Learning rifle safety.

"Teamwork is key in surviving the apocalypse!"

The course including learning to shoot with live ammunition, which wasn’t new to me, since I’m a gun enthusiast. We also learned to shoot crossbows and throw knives. I found out that if I’m in an apocalypse, knives aren’t going to help me at all, since I was terrible at that. We also learned zom-jitsu, which is similar to jujitsu. What was really interesting was learning to do first aid – they taught us how to do sutures on pig’s feet. The trainers made incisions, and gave us suturing needles, pliers, and twine.

Doing sutures on pigs' feet.

We also learned survival techniques in the field – how to filter water, start a fire… For example, ignitable household products like petroleum jelly can help you start a good fire with just a couple of sparks. We discussed what you might keep in a survival kit – protein bars, a water filtering straw, toilet paper… At the end of the day we had a competition, where teams had to go through all the skills they had learned, as quickly as possible. Teamwork is key to surviving the apocalypse! For example, a girl on my team was great at the crossbow, but I was stronger, so I helped her arch the bows.

Zombie target practice.

"Talking about a sensitive topic like survival through the frame of zombies really takes the edge off"

A lot of this zombie preparedness, in the end, is similar to what I’ve seen in other emergency preparedness classes, but the difference is that people are also there to have fun. I think the zombie genre has become so popular in part because of a sense in this country, ever since 9/11, that the unexpected can happen, and that people need to learn how to take care of themselves and their families. The recession, too, got people worried about what would happen in the case of an economic collapse. So talking about a sensitive topic like survival through the frame of zombies really takes the edge off. It makes it easier to learn serious skills.


Clarke learning to throw knives.
 
A group of trainees show off their zombie-fighting weapons.
Close